It’s going to be “Constitution 101″ for state police in Maryland, who will be undergoing training on the First and Fourth Amendments as part of a settlement of a lawsuit over the illegal arrests of pro-life protesters there.
Confirmation comes from officials with the Alliance Defense Fund, who argued that the officers’ decision to arrest, take into custody and strip-search the protesters simply wasn’t allowed.
The ADF noted that the settlement with Maryland State Police will include “training on rights protected by the First and Fourth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.”
“Under the terms of the settlement, Maryland State Police cannot issue countywide dispersal orders against peaceful pro-life speakers, cannot illegally arrest pro-life speakers who are exercising their constitutionally protected free speech and assembly rights, must provide acceptable reasons for asking any speakers to move, must provide speakers with the opportunity to move before threatening anyone with arrest, cannot censor constitutionally protected messages and images on signs, and must participate in training on rights protected by the First and Fourth amendments to the U.S. Constitution,” the ADF reported.
The state also is paying for the attorneys’ fees incurred by the pro-life advocates.
“The state is doing the right thing in agreeing to respect their constitutionally protected rights and to make sure officers fully understand these important freedoms,” said Kevin Theriot, senior counsel for the ADF. “Pro-life speech cannot be censored through unwarranted arrests and illegal orders to disperse.”
The ADF said the settlement came when the Maryland Board of Public Works voted for the agreement and made the promises. The case had been brought on behalf of pro-life advocates who were censored and arrested for peacefully sharing their message in Harford County in 2008.
Most of the 18 people arrested were held in the jail overnight, and several of the teen girls who were taken into custody were strip-searched by county detention officers.
Harford County settled its part of the lawsuit a year ago, agreeing to make changes in its policies to make certain that peaceful protesters will be protected from such searches in the future.
“Pro-life advocates shouldn’t be silenced and arrested for peacefully speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves,” Theriot added.
The case began when a dozen state and municipal police officers handcuffed 18 participants in Defend Life’s annual “Face the Truth” pro-life tour.
The participants had started their peaceful event along a public road in Harford County. Later, however, the group relocated several miles away to public property in the town of Bel Air, near where they had been several times in past tours.
They moved because state troopers ordered them to leave the county for not having a county permit to engage in free speech activities, even though the county does not have any such permit requirement.
The officers later arrested the participants in Bel Air for failing to obey the countywide order to disperse.
The county’s earlier agreement provided for the county and several individuals to be dismissed as defendants based on the promised change in policy.
The ADF reported that the teen girls were subjected to two rounds of strip searches.
Only after the strip searches and a night spent in jail were they told why they were arrested. A week after their release, the state dropped the charges of loitering, disorderly conduct and failure to obey a lawful order that had been filed.
The county later confirmed, too, that there is no requirement for a “permit” as the protesters had been told.
WND reported earlier when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit rejected the claim by police officers that they were immune from the lawsuit.